The nights are drawing in and the temperatures are dropping, which means only one thing, winter is on its way. With the start of winter comes the increased likelihood of snow and, for dogs, the increased chance of wintery walks!
Winter is a beautiful season, the ground is covered in a white snow coat, the Christmas festivities are kicking in, and we get to wrap up in cosy blankets in front of a movie. Most of dogs love to play in the snow, and although it's fun to watch them do it, winter also brings seasonal hazards. Salt, ice melts, extremely cold temperatures, deep snow, slippery ice and more are things you, as a dog owner, will need to be aware of.
Read our winter safety tips to make sure you and your dog spends a safe winter season. Find out how to protect your dog from the snow, ice and cold temperatures.
Why do dogs love the snow?
If you’ve ever seen a pup playing in the snow then you’ll know that they’re big fans of the white stuff but just why do they love it so much?
According to Stanley Coren, a scientist and Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, dogs find this new material very exciting! It’s almost like a new toy for the pup to play with and thicker coated breeds in particular love it. But, for responsible owners, there are certain measures that you should take to ensure that your pup is safe and healthy as they play.
Is it safe for dogs to play in snow?
If your dog happily bounds out into the snow then it can be tempting to let them play for as long as they like but arm yourself with the facts before doing so, there are dangers associated with too much exposure to snow and ice.
While the cold can give dogs a chill and too much gobbling of snow can cause vomiting, there are additional unexpected dangers to consider. The grit or ice melts that councils put down to prevent people from slipping can be hazardous to dogs. The salt that’s used contains chemicals that can lead to burnt paws so if you see this grit and can’t avoid it then be sure to limit your pup’s exposure and bathe their feet when you get home to prevent injury to paw pads. It should also go without saying that your dog shouldn’t ingest it.
Look out for ice balls too. This rather sweet-sounding phenomenon is actually quite unpleasant for your pup and occurs when the hair on paws soaks up the frozen water and forms into balls that are painful to walk on.
Can dogs get sick from eating snow?
You may notice your pup loves to gobble up snow, snow is frozen water so they’re quenching their thirst and trying something new all at once but can snow make them sick? Dogs with sensitivity issues may well find that snow upsets their tum. Make sure your pooch is well hydrated to limit them swallowing too much and don’t let them drink from melted puddles in case ice melts and salts have been used.
How long can dogs play in the snow?
It’s best to keep walks short on very cold days. Your dog may appear to be having a great time but if it’s really cold, frost bitten paws are a very real threat. As a general rule of thumb, consider that if it’s too cold for you to stay outside for too long then it probably is for Fido too. For dogs without thick coats (such as Greyhounds and French Bulldogs), invest in a dog coat.
Can small dogs go out in the snow?
Some dogs are better suited to the cold than others. If the temperature dips below 7 degrees then you may want to consider winter coats for smaller breeds and short-coated pups such as Greyhounds.
Do dogs’ feet get cold in the snow?
Dog’s paws are much more robust than our feet and will be able to handle the cold to an extent. But, if your dog will be outside for long, it’s a great idea to consider the following:
Paw wax is designed to be rubbed into dogs paws before an icy walk. It can minimise damage and injury caused by grit and ice. Apply before and after walks to keep their paws soft and supple right the way through the winter.
Wearing boots might not come naturally to your pup but it’s a great option in the cold months. Boots offer warmth and protection and are great for dogs not designed for the cold. Measure from the tip of the nail to the heel to find the right size.
Be sure to wipe down your dog’s paws after each and every walk. This will limit damage caused by the salt and ice. If you know that your dog has been exposed to lots of grit then consider washing paws in warm water and drying with a towel.
Here's a helpful visual on how to protect your pet from the dangers of winter:
Hopefully, you’re feeling far more confident about how to keep your pup safe and well this winter. Most dogs love snow and most owners love to see the joy on their best furry friend’s face. Keep in mind the tips outlined in this article and you should be on track for a happy winter.